Shattered Spaces

In honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, this week's review looks at the rebuilding process of decimated Jewish spaces after World War II

Shattered spaces : encountering Jewish ruins in postwar Germany and Poland

Meng, Michael. Harvard, 2011
351p, 9780674053038 $35.00

At the end of WW II, rubble and ruin dominated the urban landscapes of both Poland and Germany. Though rebuilding those cities was of critical importance, Meng (Clemson Univ.) argues, the ways in which Germans and Poles encountered and treated Jewish ruins during the rebuilding process also reveals how they dealt with the legacy of the Holocaust on the whole. In his groundbreaking, interesting, and highly readable study, Meng shows that the recovery of Jewish ruins by the remaining Jewish population in the two Germanys and Poland was hampered from the beginning, though for differing reasons. The majority of the ruins were subsequently demolished by government authorities, as sweeping away reminders of the past proved much easier than confronting them. Since the late 1970s, however, local and international interest in Jewish sites has caused an upsurge in the preservation and restoration of the few remaining prewar sites in Germany and Poland. This book deftly explores and explains the meanings derived from the encounters with these sites. An excellent addition to Jewish history, postwar studies, and memory studies.

Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates and above.
Reviewer: J. T. Rasel, Strayer University
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – History, Geography & Area Studies – Central & Eastern Europe
Choice Issue: Jun 2012